A storm that forecasters warned could be a blizzard for the history books, with a potential for up to 3 feet of snow, clobbered the New York-to-Boston corridor on Friday, grounding flights and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of customers across the Northeast.
By Friday evening, more than 14 inches of snow had fallen in Belmont, Mass., just northwest of Boston, and more than 13 inches covered parts of northeastern Connecticut. Throughout the Northeast, about 350,000 homes and businesses lost electricity as wet, heavy snow, freezing rain and howling winds caused havoc.
Earlier, as meteorologists warned of the impending blizzard conditions, shoppers from New Jersey to Maine crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators, something that became a precious commodity after Superstorm Sandy in October. Others gassed up their cars, another lesson learned all too well after Sandy. Across much of New England, schools closed well ahead of the first snowflakes.
"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."
The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it could also mean a weekend cooped up indoors.
Halfway through what had been a mild winter across the Northeast, blizzard warnings were posted from parts of New Jersey to Maine. The National Weather Service said Boston could get close to 3 feet of snow by Saturday evening, while most of Rhode Island could receive more than 2 feet, most of it falling overnight Friday into Saturday. Connecticut was bracing for 2 feet, and New York City was expecting as much as 14 inches. East of New York City, nearly a foot of snow had fallen before midnight Friday.
Early snowfall was blamed for a 19-car pileup in Cumberland, Maine, that caused minor injuries. Most of the region's power outages were in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Forecasters said wind gusts up to 75 mph could cause more widespread power outages and whip the snow into fearsome drifts. Flooding was expected along coastal areas still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey the hardest and is considered Jersey's worst natural disaster.